New (and old) ACC coaches battling for more than just wins
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers, left, and Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente talk after an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, in Syracuse, N.Y. Syracuse won 31-17. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
BOSTON (AP) Syracuse coach Dino Babers was rocking the locker room speech after beating Virginia Tech and knocking the Hokies out of the Top 25.
Boston College coach Steve Addazio is still trying to earn his first Atlantic Coast Conference win in more than a year.
When the Eagles and Orange meet on Saturday in Chestnut Hill, one coach in his first year will face one who is trying to make sure it isn't his last. It's one of those midseason games that won't make much difference in the ACC standings, but could have an impact on the recruiting trail and the job market.
One of four new coaches in the ACC this season , Babers is trying to rebuild the program from the bottom, much like Virginia's Bronco Mendenhall. Virginia Tech's Jason Fuente is trying to rekindle the success the Hokies had under Frank Beamer. Mark Richt was hoping to help Miami claim its first Coastal Division title.
''The biggest thing about this win is that anytime you take over a new program, you're trying to get everybody to buy in, to work as one,'' Babers said after beating then-No. 17 Virginia Tech 31-17 on Saturday .
''No matter how hard everyone wants to do that, there's always the naysayers. There's always those ones that say, `Hey, maybe we should be doing it the way the old team did it, or the old coaches did it.' It's always that way, until you get that one win that solidifies you, that brings you together. That's what happened today. We're now a family.''
Hired in December when Scott Shafer was fired after two straight losing seasons, Babers is the fourth Syracuse coach in eight seasons. Struggling with a thin roster made even thinner by injuries, the Orange lost 62-28 to Louisville, 45-20 to South Florida and 50-33 to Notre Dame.
The program looks better now after his first signature victory.
''Just another reminder that every week in college football, man, you have to show up and you got to bring your A game. That's just the way it is,'' Addazio said. ''They're playing at an emotional high level right now. We're very well-aware of that and know how tough this game will be.''
Boston College (3-3, 0-3) is coming off an off-week following a 56-10 loss to Clemson that was the Eagles 11th ACC loss in a row . After back-to-back bowl bids in Addazio's first two seasons – leading to a contract extension that was supposed to keep him at BC through 2020 – BC went 3-9 last year and is stuck on three wins again.
Asked this week if he felt pressure to beat Syracuse (3-4, 1-2 ACC) and end the ACC losing streak, Addazio said, ''Pressure to win Saturday.''
''Every game has unbelievable importance,'' he said. ''Doesn't matter who we're playing, they get all your focus. Right now all my focus is playing Syracuse. … I don't really look into anything beyond that, around it, behind it.''
A look at what's going on with some of the conference's coaches midway through the season:
In their first season under Fuente, the Hokies (4-2, 2-1) were looking like the might be the team to beat in the Coastal until they were stunned 31-17 at Syracuse. Under Fuente and his staff, transfer quarterback Jerod Evans has 17 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. Tech still has a good chance to win the division, in part thanks to a 34-3 victory at North Carolina, but has games against Miami and Pittsburgh on the next two Thursday nights that will go a long way toward sorting things out.
Using Mendenhall's 3-4 defensive scheme and a fast-paced offense led by transfer quarterback Kurt Benkert, the Cavaliers (2-4, 1-1) were manhandled by Richmond of the FCS to start the season. But they won two straight before last week's 45-31 loss at home to Pitt. Their victory at Duke two weeks ago snapped a road losing streak that lasted 17 games, dating to November 2012.
The Hurricanes (4-2, 1-2) have yet to win a division title. After Al Golden went 16-18 in the ACC over five seasons, Miami alumnus Richt took over. Quarterback Brad Kaaya had the Hurricanes as high as 10th in the Top 25 before back-to-back-losses dropped them out.
Paul Johnson, who took Tech to three ACC title championship games in his first seven years, could also be coaching for his job after the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 1-3) won just one ACC game last season – against Florida State. They finished last in the Coastal, the first time in his eight seasons they were not either first or second in the division. This year, they have lost three straight ACC games and are 2-10 in the conference games since the start of 2015. Johnson notes that the first two ACC losses were to Clemson and Miami when each was a top 15 team, and the third was a last-second game at Pitt.
Johnson said that Tech still has a chance to win nine games.
''That would be considered a pretty good year, I would think,'' he said. ''Now, that won't achieve our goals we set to start with: to try to win our division and get in the championship game. As crazy as our division is, who knows? You just keep playing.''
AP Sports Writers Jon Kekis, Hank Kurz, Charles Odum and Steve Wine contributed to this story.
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